Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trump Destroying US and Democracy Just as Gorbachev Destroyed USSR and Communism, Khzmalyan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 28 –Donald Trump is putting the United States on a course that recalls the one Mikhail Gorbachev put the Soviet Union on 30 years ago, a course that will weaken not only the United States but democracy around the world and open the way to a new world war, according to Armenian film maker and commentator Tigran Khzmalyan.

            On the portal, he says that Trump’s initial moves to oppose China, weaken NATO, and inflame the Muslim world by moving the US embassy to Israel to Jerusalem reflect a deeper impulse and it is that impulse which recalls what drove Gorbachev to destroy what he claimed to be saving via radical change (

            Those deeper impulses, Khzmalyan argues, include not only the rejection of the kind of American role in the world that has defined US policy since the time of Woodrow Wilson in favor of isolationism and provincialism but a bet on the industries of the past instead of the industries of the future.

            And it is in those ways, the commentator suggests, that what Trump is doing now recalls what Gorbachev did during perestroika.

            “It is no secret now,” Khzmalyan writes, that in the 1980s, many in Moscow simultaneously wanted to get rid of what they saw as “the ballast” of the Central Asian and Caucasian republics and the world socialist system and to establish a Duginist Eurasian Empire in its place.

            Given this fundamental contradiction, it is no surprise that “the USSR entered the last decade of its existence … politically isolated, ideologically bankrupt and economically in collapse.” And Gorbachev’s “half-hearted and inconsistent ‘perestroika’” only accelerated “the destruction of the system and the disintegration of the state.”

            The parallels with Trump’s approach, one simultaneously calling, on the one hand, for the restoration of smokestack industries and the growth of extractive industries at home and the withdrawal from commitments and obligations abroad and, on the other, for “making America great again,” are all too obvious. 

            Trump’s efforts to intimidate businesses into bringing industrial jobs back to the US may please his electorate, but “the home-grown ‘socialism’ of the billionaire Trump is based not on patriotism and even not on political utility but on other purely economic considerations which secure him the support of the conservative part of the Republicans and their sponsors.”

            Remember what happened with the Soviet Union, the Armenian commentator suggests. The USSR economy was running out of gas by the 1960s and increasingly relying on the export of oil and gas to keep afloat.  That and repression kept the workers relatively quiescent but it killed any chance for real progress.

            “However paradoxical it may seem, the richest, most modern and technologically powerful US is today beginning to move along the same dangerous and dead-end path which the USSR passed” 30 years ago, with talk about futurist scenarios like those of Elon Mask but with real policy dictated by corporations from the past like Exxon Mobil, Shell, GM and Ford.

            The coexistence of these two trends “won’t last long.” They are “incompatible” and will inevitably “clash,” with the new defeating the old but possibly only after serious and perhaps fatal damage is done to the US just as was the case with the Soviet Union in Gorbachev’s times, Khzmalyan says.

            Under the first and last Soviet president, the media talked a lot about futurist ideas; but real power remained in the hands of “the aging and corrupt military-industrial complex which had converted the country into a factory to produce tanks but couldn’t build even a decent automobile or sewing machine.”

            The leaders of traditional big business are Trump’s biggest supporters. They have enormous budgets but no vision of a different future.  “Backing Trump, they bet on the preservation of their profits and aging factories, on exploiting their past achievements and on a struggle with new technologies rather than investing in them.

            But the leaders of the high tech sector know that if the US isolates itself and especially if it gets into fights with China, they will lose because China will produce and sell analogues to what they have the market to themselves now at lower prices and thus undermine their prospects for the future.

            According to Khzmalyan, “Trump has already set in motion the process of the self-isolation of the country. This will not make America great; it will lead to its sharp weakening. But the weakness of the US is the weakening of all Western democracy and this means the strengthening of dictatorships and the danger of a new war for the division of the world.”

            Moreover, he continues, Trump’s introduction of “elements of dictatorship in the political system of the US” will weak America still further. It will drive Trump into the arms of Putin whom the new US president has praised as “a strong leader,’ that is, as a dictator” even as Trump attacks his own “civil society: journalists, rights activists, environmentalists and feminists.”

                People in many places, including the former Soviet space, are worried about Trump’s course because they have seen it all before, Khzmalyan suggests. “Having lost America as a guarantor of democracy and freedom, the world again will be in the undefined and explosive situation of the beginning of the 20th century which ended with World War I.”

            That war which destroyed many things and threatened to destroy even more was stopped by the intervention of the United States. That intervention made the US a great power. And it defined the American approach to the world in which the defense of freedom and democracy was a primary goal.

            Trump has made clear that he wants to do away with that “mission,” something that will undermine the chances for peace and democracy abroad and progress at home whatever the supporters of the American president think, the commentator says, arguing that the experience of the Soviet Union is again instructive.

            “The chief cause of the collapse of the USSR,” he says, was the emergence of a situation when “the majority of the population ceased to believe in its mission and dream, however chimerical, about the construction of a society of freedom, equality and brotherhood.” And “this happened long before 1991.”


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